It was an accident which put me behind the wheel of the 2013 Passat Blue Motion. The car I was meant to collect had been bent by another writer. I must make a mental note to thank him. To be honest the Passat hasn’t been on my radar. GayCarBoys tends to write about cars preferred by the gay community so there are sporty hatches, open tourers and trendy wagons and SUV’s so the posh boys can take the dawgs out on the weekend. We do the odd executive ride but they are few and far between. That’s a shame because we might have come across Passat before.
Before we get to the car let me throw a few numbers at you: There are 125kw and 350Nm of torque in the 2.0L turbo diesel. The Blue Motion technology is a suite of innovations to improve fuel consumption so that the 1550kg 4 door Saloon will do 4.7L/100 on the open road. At $1.50 a litre that means you will spend only 7c for a kilometre of travel. That hardly seem possible does it?
Elegance, quality and sturdiness are several of the words that come to mind when you first cast you eye over the lines of the exterior of the Passat. There is a certain Germanic precision about the way it’s been put together. It looks like it’s been built to last. The lines are simple with no unnecessary lumps and bumps and nothing has been carved out of it. The front is particularly chunky in its appearance. It’s manly and solid with big Xenon headlamps and LED day-lamps (both optional) and the grille juts aggressively forward giving a slightly angry face that says “I’m good looking and butch so you had better get out of my way”. Importantly it looks expensive with the same attention to details you find in Audi but without the premium price.
It’s the same story around the back. The tail light cluster has the optional LED lamps but that is the only adornment. In short, the exterior looks classy and solid. In the flesh the Passat looks bigger than it really is with an impressive road presence. The subtle body lines sweep from the back down to the front giving the impression of a lower, sportier, faster touring saloon. The looks won’t be for everyone but I find it pleasing if a little too understated.
Two words for you here: All class. In a departure from the dearth of metalised plastic rubbish in most cars, VW has chosen quality fittings so anything that looks like metal is real brushed aluminium and the leather is real leather. A particularly classy touch is the analogue clock in the metal trim across the front of the dash. It adds a touch of ye Olde World to the very modern and the contrast is pleasing. The Infotainment system is the one used throughout the brand but in Passat comes standard with Satnav. The centre console is also where you find the switch to turn off the Auto Stop which prevents the engine from shutting down at traffic lights. There are times when you want to make a fast getaway and the last thing you would want is any shenanigans from the restarting sequence.
The LCD screen shows some of the programmable functions too so there is some basic customisation of the headlights and security settings. It is in the settings, not the satnav itself, where you’ll find the tick-box which turns off the points of interest in the map. For example the last thing you need is to be driving down Crown St in Surry Hills with the Café flag ticked. In such a street, the map is almost entirely covered with flags so as to block sight of the roads, names and other features that guide you. We never found out how to make the lady in the dash repeat herself. When she is speaking is the easiest time to adjust the volume but if you aren’t quick enough with the volume dial turn trn the radio volume up instead. However once you adjusted most of the settings you don’t have to do it again. You could also run through your favourite radio stations here too.
Below are the climate control settings. There are two zones but they can be made one for when the driver is the only one on-board. One thing which was noteworthy was the seating which is very firm in that typical German way but as you would expect not at all uncomfortable. The leather is done very nicely as well. It has a premium look and feel and I keep coming back to the fact that, like the exterior, the interior has the feel of a more expensive car. I’m fond of Holden’s Calais and although it’s 300mm longer it’s also $20,000 more expensive and uses double the fuel because there is no diesel option. What stands out most is the gulf of difference in build quality between the two. Not a panel inside or out is out of place in the Passat. Nothing has bowed and the tolerance of the joints would make the ancient Egyptians proud.
The sturdiness of the construction and generally thoughtful design does have the odd flaw. The Passat performed the sad duty of ferrying elderly relatives to a funeral. The two older gents sat quietly in the back but each struggled to fasten his seat belt. It’s happened to us all but this happened to the old blokes every time they got in. There is nothing more frustrating than cantankerous belt buckles but this didn’t do much to dampen the general feeling of well-being that we all felt during the weeks drive.
Perhaps unfairly, my previous week had been spent in Volkswagen’s fabulous Golf GTi so getting into the statelier, more mature Passat initially felt strange. The steering, brakes and suspension all had less of an edge. This isn’t surprising because the two cars couldn’t be aimed at two more different demographics. The GTi is aimed at the bloke aged between 20 and 40 who craves a pocket rocket, whereas the Passat is aimed at the older person to whom comfort and style matter more than going around corners fast. It didn’t take long to get used to the softer ride and softer brakes which then became the norm. The GTi made me feel excited and special but Passat had quite a different effect and this is really where I surprised myself. I started to feel a bit posh and rather smug because I knew something the drivers around me didn’t know. I knew what it was like to be sitting comfortably in the rarefied climate created by a combination of superb craftsmanship and clever design. Things were where I expected them to be, most of the time. The menu system of the infotainment unit took some working, out but driving the Passat made me feel like a film star. It’s so important to get the car in the right colour. White looks a little frumpy but the dark metallic blue elegant and stately and elegant so wafting along at 4.7L/100k on the highway entitles the driver to feel smug. It’s worth pointing out that Hybrids can’t achieve this figure though some claim it, at least around town. They certainly don’t get it on the open road. To put it another way you’ll pay just 7c a kilometre for fuel. That’s a mere $70 for a thousand kilometres. You and two chums would be very nicely catered for on such a long trip and each would travel from Sydney to Melbourne for a touch over $23. The added bonus is you’d have something nice to drive round in once you got there.
You can have the Automated parking option if reverse parking drives you to distraction but the sensors are sufficient for most of us. Our Saloon didn’t have the option and I didn’t miss it. The 125kw turbo diesel has 350Nm of torque to deal with sprints and high speed and the DSG to get you there without having to faff about with gears and a clutch. It has to be said that I personally like faffing and I’m not terribly fussed in DSG or CVT auto transmissions. The former isn’t as smooth as a good auto of the regular variety in my opinion. Its function improves as the driver gets used to its quirks but a very slow precise parking manoeuvrer is hard to perfect as the clutches grab and release the gears.
The stop/start too wasn’t as smooth as I would have liked. On several occasions the engine failed to reignite when my foot came off the brake. It wouldn’t have worried me overly by the starting procedure is requested by the smaller LCD in the centre of the instrument cluster. The Key fob is inserted directly into the dash and is given a firm push to start the car. When the re-start has failed, and you’re sitting in traffic waiting to turn and horns are tooting and other drivers are yelling you are expected to remember the following procedure:
1: Select Park
2: ensure your foot is on the brake
3: push the key so it pops out a little then again to re-seat it
4: push the key again to start the engine
5: move the selector into Drive
6: take your foot off the brake and place it on the accelerator.
Trying to remember this in the less than forgiving atmosphere of leak hour traffic the recipe seems a trifle over baked. I’m sure it’s driver error but it isn’t as though I don’t drive a lot of different vehicles from a lot of different makers. I’m left wondering what would happen to an inexperienced person or worse still, an older driver.
All of that is for naught when you are on the move. You waft along listening to Mozart on a decent stereo even if you haven’t opted for the arm-and-a-leg option. The cabin is as quite as a church mouse unless you have cause to push your foot into the carpet. Although the diesel engine is relatively, high revs create a bit of a hullabaloo under the bonnet and the sound of the does makes itself known to the occupants. It isn’t uncomfortable by any means but rather the dulcet tones of a technology determined to take as little money from your wallet as possible each time you fill your tank. You’ll never be hearing it much because the Passat is a tourer who prefers steady as she goes. She is more than happy to provide a generous dose of chilli should you need them at the lights.
This is the part where I will sum up what I’ve been saying but it’s also where I say if I liked the car. Sometimes. If I’ve liked the car a lot, I’ll be moved to such words as fabulous or luscious or superb. On rare occasions I’ll also add that I’d be happy to have the car at my place on a more permanent basis. I can imagine myself wafting along sipping fuel at a miserly rate while flicking carelessly through the music on your IPhone using the steering wheel buttons. When you get to where you’re going you pop the boot and the lid raises like a finely honed piece of medical equipment and you’re reassured again that you’ve made the right choice.
Passat is not for the type of person who is determined to impress people with badges or who like cars the size of watering cans, but for the rest of us it will do very nicely.
V6 FSI $61,612